Usability? Form factor? The myth that form follows function is still around. It’s actually the other way around. We have worked on a variety of design functionality issues including historic buildings and places, zoning, design competitions, a resort hotel, several very large luxury houses, hydro-processing control facilities and hospital floor layouts.
What is an architect, really?
The founder of one of the largest media companies was going to build a unique 25,000 SF great house, stables, hangar, manager's house and landing strip in one of the most scenic but undiscovered areas in the West. After interviewing several architects, he chose one in the closest town, a place under 100,000. whose background included extensive project management experience on large institutional buildings.
After little more than year, there were delays, fee and cost increases and after almost another year the main house was barely started. The owner fired the architect. The architect counterclaimed for unpaid bills and to prevent his designs from being used. We showed the architect was poorly-qualified with neither academic training nor work experience designing a great house. The case was settled beneficially for the client.
An attorney for an industrial property owner misread and approved property documents for a large warehouse-office facility resulting in loss of an easement in perpetuity used for parking. The property lost over 75 per cent of its parking spaces, would lose its zoning classification as well as a defense contractor that had been the tenant for well over a decade. It was an ideal location for the tenant and no other developed or undeveloped parcels in the reasonably near vicinity could accommodate the use. Previous disputes with the owner of the adjacent parcel on which the easement was located meant settlement would be difficult. To accommodate parking requirements, about 30 percent of the building frontage would need to be demolished.
We were hired to develop a solution that would regain the facility’s functionality, zoning and value at its current location. developed a schematic design that would mount a structurally independent level above the remaining ground level of the building to accommodate tenant functions and the requisite number of parking spaces. We brought in a local appraiser for valuation and developed three scenarios of after condition alternatives to quantify effects on values and revenue streams. Another firm developed costs for this design. To settle, the attorney purchased the space of the lost easement for the property owner.
Was there a contract?
A couple wanted to build a 15,000 SF luxury house and worked with a designer-builder (plaintiff) whose fee was based on a percentage of construction cost. With no signed contract, the designer/builder retained consultants and subcontractors for soil analysis and prepared building and landscape designs. The property owner did not approve the designs. The designer/builder submitted a bill of almost $100,000. The property owner refused to pay.The plaintiff sued. We showed the design and contracting practices for this kind of situation to be very unusual and the case was settled for a much lower amount.
Value, functional utility, and unjust enrichment in a historic gambling town
The functional utility of a building with a historically designated shell in a limited stakes gambling town was one of several matters at issue in an unjust enrichment suit. A designer-contractor disputed the claim by his client that the layout of the casino, when finished, would be similar to small casinos that had marginal success and be substantially different from successful ones, that it would be functionally obsolete.
We distinguished external (economic) from functional obsolescence by identifying the impact of decreased demand on overall real estate values. Our financial break-even model equating fixed costs with real estate values and variable costs with casino operating costs developed base-line value measures. Our analysis showed that the design and construction of the building on completion allowed an already contemplated assemblage with adjacent property substantially similar in functional utility to many successful casinos. After the trial court decided in favor of the designer-contractor, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the facts presented, but reversed saying unjust enrichment must involve wrongful conduct.
An Elizabethan country house
Cherokee Castle, now an important site for architecture tours, was owned by the late Ms. Tweet Kimball and designed and built in the manner of a late medieval castle in 1924-1926 by prominent Denver architect Burnham F. Hoyt. Mrs. Kimball wanted it to be a museum displaying her collection and exemplifying a rare building type by an important Denver architect. We were retained by Ms. Kimball to prepare a detailed building and highest and best use analysis for the use transition.
Corporate real estate
Matching a company’s culture, its distinctive competence and its space is difficult to get right. This analysis addressed the impact of a change in configuration to improve collaborative knowledge work and and lessen awareness of noise distractions and interruptions. Key objectives were that the changed work area would: 1) increase the quantity and relative value of collaborative interaction; 2) stimulate more chance encounters; and 3) promote a psychological ownership of collaborative space.
The new layout increased the number of work spaces by just over 15 percent while slightly decreasing overall workplace density. But research findings showed 1) collaborative interaction and its quality decreased; 2) the number of chance meetings decreased; 3) employees believed they are less productive. Our analysis showed why: a significant increase in spatial complexity.
Zoning and design
For a neighborhood organization concerned about the impact of the design and massing of a proposed approximately 200 unit apartment building, we did an analysis of the plans and of the zoning regulations and presented our findings in a public hearing. The commission required the developer to resubmit and the planning staff to consider a variety of factors that were not adequately addressed initially. The end result, however, was that the design was built with considerable negative public reaction.